SSX has taken its sweet time to arrive on this generation of consoles, but the wait was well worth it.
- Worth The Time?It'll be hard to find something better to do with your time once you've started playing.
- Things LovedBeautifully reconstructed and detailed mountain ranges, simple yet elegant control scheme, fantastic campaign and events, Deadly Descents are exhilarating and enjoyable, slopes feel real and offer multiple routes and lines, tons of equipment to buy, very interesting take on multiplayer, tons of content to keep you busy for months and months, the same fantastic SSX gameplay you know and love, Squirrel Suits!
- Things HatedObscene lack of split-screen multiplayer, some survival events can get frustrating, weird micro-transactions.
- RecommendationGet up, get in your car, drive to your favourite games store, present money, go home with SSX. Alternatively, order it online. Basically, get this game, now.
- Name: SSX
- Genre: Extreme Sports
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: PS3 and Xbox 360
- Developer: EA Canada
- Publisher: EA
- Price: R499.95
- Reviewed On: PS3
Despite never owning a single SSX title until now, I have always been a massive fan of the franchise. SSX Tricky is forever engraved in my mind as one of the best sports games I have ever played, and I have waited a long, long time for the mighty snowboarding franchise to land on this generation of consoles. Having done that this past Friday, I can honestly say without a doubt that SSX is the finest entry this franchise has ever produced, and possibly one of the greatest sports games ever released. A few odd design and feature choices may upset fans of good-natured multiplayer action, but if your fix for an exhilarating, breathtaking and extremely enjoyable sports game has gone long unchecked, then SSX is the perfect title to get your gaming adrenaline pumping once more. The nine Deadly Descents are marvels themselves, and depict SSX action in its finest form.
Unlike many other entries into the series, SSX actually offers some background and story to guide you through the nine Deadly Descents presented before you in the single-player portion of the game. This is truly a reboot in the essence of the word, and players who are only encountering SSX for their first time now won’t feel as though they’re being forced to watch from the outside. Each and every returning character is given a brief backstory, introducing you to the entire SSX Team and their addictions to pushing the limits. The story has Team SSX racing around the world as they seek to ride all nine “Deadly Descents”. These are mountain ranges and routes that are some of the most deadly snowboarding drops around the world, each with their own unique theme of danger. Ex SSX member Griffin is out to get back at his old team and promote his own, which leads to a race against time to see who can conquer all nine drops first. It’s all really cliché and uninspired, but if you came to SSX looking for something different, then you’re in the wrong place. That’s like putting down the FIFA name because of its lack of a narrative.
What is important is that the single-player portion of the game does a great job of plunging you into the world of Snowboard, Surfing and Motocross, or SSX for short. Don’t get ahead of yourself though, this title features just one of SSX’s disciplines, but I’m hoping future titles will be more ambitious and hopefully branch out into the remaining two. Despite being confined to one type of extreme sport, there is still tons of variety to be had with the campaign. Events are usually only split into two different modes, namely Race It and Trick It, which either involves a race down a slope or a contest of uber tricks and massive combos respectively. This may not seem like much variety, but when you see just how different each and every mountain slope is, you’ll soon realise that they themselves provide variety enough. On top of this, each locale has specific survival and special events, which usually incorporate a deadly part of nature into them. Having limited oxygen on Everest or massive cliffs in Patagonia are some examples, and having nine very different threats really evolve your play style in interesting ways.
Deadly Descents make up part of the icing under the SSX cake. In these events, nature is your only competitor, and your objective is simple; Survival. Each event has one aspect of nature working its hardest to see you fail, whether it is gravity, tress, rocks, avalanches, oxygen or darkness. In these types of events, the gear you equip is almost just as important as the skill you bring, as having inadequate gear could mean the difference between success and failures. Before you set out on these or any other event, you’re able to customize your chosen boarder with a selection of apparel, boards, special gear and more. Most of the required gear is usually given to you during the story, but coming back to past events presents medal challenges that will require better and more expensive gear. The store only stocks four types of each item, which is a bit silly at some points, as you’ll have to buy utterly useless gear in the hope that a better piece appears in its place. Credits to spend at these stores are earned while doing events, and before you know it you’ll be up to your neck in unspent credits, especially if you plan to keep your SSX experience offline all the time.
While most of the challenges presented by Deadly Descents feel cleverly designed and well implemented, some tend to feel more like an annoyance than anything else. For example, staying in the sun while riding in Antarctica because of the extremely cold temperatures directly affects how your descent will turn out, and forces you to adapt your riding style in a clever way. On the other hand, dropping you into a horribly lit network of caves in Kilimanjaro with only a headlight might seem like a frightening and equally exhilarating idea, but in practice it only serves to frustrate you immensely when run after run you’re forced to restart due to always finding yourself falling off unseen cliffs. This type of frustration can be said for Oxygen events as well, and Avalanche events aren’t as cinematic and exciting as I thought they would be. However, events that give you access to “Squirrel Suits” are extremely enjoyable, and soaring through the air for hundreds of meters at a time is such a joy, especially since controlling this flight feels so natural. Ice events are equally fun, and narrowly missing icy edges just after your ice picks get really dug in is heart stopping fun. After completing these events, you’re able to take any piece of gear into previous and future events, allowing you to tweak each and every slope experience.
But an SSX game could have all of this and more, but without its signature blend of fast boarding with massive tricks, it would still be nothing. Thankfully, SSX does not fall short in this department at all. In fact, snowboarding is probably at its finest it ever has been in SSX. Racing down mountains still gives you an unbelievable sense of speed, and pulling off various tricks and turns is as elegant and simple as ever. For those of you who are hardened SSX veterans, you’ll be pleased to know that EA have kept your control scheme intact for you to enjoy, but the button layout might just tempt you to change your ways. Using just three buttons, you’re able to pull off an impressive array of tricks, and holding either R2 or the Right Trigger further tweaks each and every move. Pull enough off in a combo and you’ll achieve “Tricky” status, allowing you to turn each of your tricks into Uber tricks for a massive points boost. Continue this combo and you’ll soon hit “Super Tricky”, which allows you to pull off all those mind-blowing Super Uber tricks the series has become famous for. Break dancing in midair, spinning a board around your neck and kicking it away from you are just some of a few signature tricks that you’ll see, and with each rider having different unique tricks, you’re bound to see some even more spectacular. It’s the SSX formula as you know it, but it feels refined in many ways. It’s smoother, more responsive and pulling off spins and flips is faster than ever. It wasn’t broken, and I’m glad EA didn’t feel the need to fix it.
Added to this formula is a rewind feature, which is similar to those you’d expect to find in modern racers. In most events, you’ll be able to rewind indefinitely, but all of this time bending power comes at a price. During race events, you’re able to rewind as much as you want, but only you will be affected. The remaining racers will continue on forward while you go backwards, greatly disadvantaging you if you constantly use it. In trick events, points are deducted each time you use a rewind, which could mean the difference between first and second, especially when you take into account just how difficult the computer A.I is. In survival events, you’re given a limited number of rewinds, but consequences when using them are gone, since you aren’t really competing against anyone but nature herself. You’ll probably find yourself using these rewinds mostly in trick events, as having a massive combo multiplier disappear after one too many flips is often so heartbreaking, that a small hit on your total points may not really even bother you if you nail the landing the second time around.
What has been given a bit of a facelift however is the slopes and routes you’ll be tricking it out in. In previous titles, most of these tracks were artificially created and imagined, and although they were extremely fun to board in, they gave the game a bit of an arcade feel. This time around, each slope is recreated from actual mountain ranges and drops, such as the Himalayas, the Alps and Antarctica. There are numerous locales around the world that you can visit, but the best part is that each of these slopes feels completely real. Numerous paths can be taken while descending, and most of the time you’ll find yourself experimenting with new and different routes in order to find the best line. Some paths are considerably more dangerous than others, and listening to your helicopter pilot will save you more often than not, especially in survival events. These realistic representations of slopes are probably the only bit of realism injected into SSX, but it feels just right. Having slopes intertwine and cycle between day and night actually changes the way you’ll play it, and finding different lines that complement tricks and races will keep you replaying them over and over again.
SSX might not be the most technically proficient game when it comes to visuals, but that doesn’t keep it from looking spectacular. Tricks are flashy and vibrant, with blue and yellow glowing trails following you when in Tricky mode. Equipping boarders with glowing suits is often quite awesome, especially in dark routes, as it turns SSX into some form of Tron meets Snow. However, mountain ranges and slopes are where visuals are taken to new levels. Having each area mapped out using actual photographs, EA have recreated these routes beautifully, and seeing thin ice blow over a massive descent as you deploy out of a helicopter is a real spectacle. Snow looks and acts as you would expect it to, and you get a really good sense of speed as you race down each and every mountain range. It’s beautiful to see in real time, and the screenshots really don’t do the game justice. The soundtrack and accompanying music also deserves a massive shout out, and it’s clear that EA have fallen head over heels in love with Dub step. If you don’t like it, then don’t worry too much, as the playlist is littered with fantastic music from various artists, and Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” just brings back all sorts of nostalgic memories.
Outside of the campaign, you are able to tackle previously completed events in every locale you’ve played before, but with different medal challenges and objectives this time around. You’re also able to equip modifiers that directly affect your event. These modifiers have to be bought with credits, but can bestow you certain attributes such as easier trick landing, faster spin and flips, faster boots speed and duration, and much more. These modifiers can help you on some surprisingly challenging events, and act as a good way to mix up the action a little bit. But all of this really prepares you for the real challenge that SSX has waiting for you. Online play against thousands of over enthusiastic riders from across the globe? It’s called Explore Mode, and it’s a whole new way to play online.
In Explore Mode, you don’t race or trick it against other players simultaneously. In fact, you never directly play with an opponent at the same time. So where’s the appeal then, right? Well, in place of direct competitive action, there are various different events with time limits on them. These time limits can range from a few hours to whole weeks, with the credit “pot” growing over time. Basically, you have to buy into events as you would buy into a game of poker at a casino. You then get the chance to try and top the high score, which is set by someone else in the world. Each event has a massive total pot of credits that are distributed when the time limit ends, with players in higher brackets bagging more than ones with lower scores. It’s a weird, but extremely addictive take on Multiplayer action, as the whole feature almost feels like gambling. Granted, there are some events that don’t require a credit buy in, but these have much smaller winnings. Events also carry with them certain rules, such as no rewinds or modifiers, meaning that there are tons of unique events waiting to be explored.
Online, your gear is everything. This is where most of your credits will be burned, as having the best gear possible could give you the edge you need to reach a really high bracket of winnings. Credit can be eared by doing events online or offline, but surprisingly, you’re also able to purchase them with real money or Microsoft Points. It gives a weird feel of “micro-transactions” to the game, which is highly bizarre for console titles. You might never feel the need to burn cash for credits, but players who get sucked into the game’s multiplayer could be tempted to spend a few bucks on some extra credits. It’s weird, but at least it’s not the only way to earn credits. Another more imaginative way is Geotags. Geotags can be placed anywhere in Explore Mode, but the harder the placement, the bigger advantage for you. Why? Well, the longer your Geotag goes untouched by other players, the more credits you earn over that period. It’s extremely imaginative, and it will take some impressive skills to place some really difficult ones for the world to tackle.
Sadly, there is only one gripe I have with SSX, but it’s a fairly large one. The inclusion of Explore Mode is great, but it came at a cost. SSX does not feature any simultaneous competitive play, and on top of that, no spilt-screen multiplayer. This is probably the biggest “what the fuck” moment EA could’ve presented, as jamming SSX for hours with a friend is probably the fondest memory I have with the previous titles. It’s a sports game, there should be local competitive play. FIFA has it, so why shouldn’t SSX have it as well.
Brush that painful decision aside and you have a near perfect package of snowboarding action. Fans have waited for a long, long time, but thankfully, the wait was worth every second. SSX brings with it some of the most exhilarating and addictive sports action ever, and is really a pedigree in the extreme sports genre. There really is nothing else that can give you a similar, let alone better, experience, and it truly deserves your full attention. SSX is prettier, better, faster, harder and crazier than ever, and it’s finally here on this generation of consoles. We’ve missed you.